Thursday, April 24, 2014

Barrel Aged Deshler

On Facebook, we hinted at a project that we would unveil for Winterfest XXI.

If you made the party, you know about (and drank) that project. If not, we thought that a month was long enough to wait. Just after last Christmas, I met with Grant Hurless, bar manager at Heritage in Madison, about barrel-aging pre-mixed cocktails. That discussion led to a barrel and a search for a classic recipe to put in it. I finally settled on a classic cousin of the traditional Manhattan called the Deshler. A potent mix of Cointreau, Dubonnet, and rye, the Deshler would stand up to the wood well and provide a smooth product in the end.

At this point if you are wondering how to barrel-age, here's how.

1. Find a barrel. You can buy small ones or ask around. Tuthilltown sells a number of them.
2. Cure your barrel. Assuming that the barrel is new and dry inside, fill the barrel with hot water and let stand for 24 hours. You are swelling the barrel’s staves so that it will not leak. During this time, you may want to set your barrel in a tub or sink or large tray. After a day or when it stops leaking, drain the water from the barrel. At this time, charred chunks of the inside may come out of the barrel. This is o.k., but you may not want the bigger pieces to go down your sink drain, so plug your sink/tub first.
3. Using a funnel, pour the cocktail you would like to age in the barrel from the bunghole at the barrel’s top. Once a week, taste a sample from the barrel. As the cocktail oaks, it will take on a woodier, sweeter, and smokier flavor; this will depend on the degree of the inside char called toasting. A light toast will make for a subtle, smooth product; a heavy toast will give rise to an strong oak and smoky influence. The amount of liquor in the barrel and the barrel’s size itself will have an impact. Deshlers are an expensive cocktail when you use Templeton like we did, so we poured only about a liter and a half into our 2 gallon barrel. This small amount of cocktail only took a month to oak to our liking.

4. Once you attain the flavor profile that you like, pull out the bung and pour out the liquid into a large pouring vessel. Then find the bottles that you would like to store the cocktail in, a funnel, and cheesecloth. Again there may be loose chunks of char in the cocktail, so strain the liquid through cheesecloth into the bottles to trap all the char. If you would like to taste what’s left of the Deshler, come on over, we have a little remaining or make your own with this recipe - 

Deshler Cocktail
Classic Pour Series
1 1/2 ounces rye
1 ounce Dubonnet
1/4 ounce Cointreau
2 dashes Peychaud bitters

Mix rye, Dubonnet, Cointreau and bitters in mixing glass. Add a lemon swath and an orange swath. Add ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Classically prepared with an orange twist or lemon twist or absolutely nothing at all but its own glory.

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